Beauty on the Bad Days: Managing stress by looking for beauty

Due to a rare form of muscular dystrophy, I am a part-time wheelchair user. This means that I rely on my wheelchair for certain tasks, but I'm still able to get out of it and walk when needed. That said, I'm spending more time in it than I used to when I first got the power chair four years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I met with a team of people to adjust the seating on my chair. I'd been having some muscle pain, and my physical therapist noted that the wheelchair wasn't supporting my body as well as it should.

I was eager to make changes.

When I arrived, I explained to the wheelchair technicians the issues I was having, including low back pain, neck tension, and rib tightness. My physical therapist, one of the team of three assessing my situation, associated my complaints with my crooked hips.


The lead technician asked, "Can we fix her pelvis?"

The physical therapist replied, "No. We can only support it."

"Okay. Let me see..." With my permission, he put his hands on my hips, then mid-back, and tried to manipulate my muscles into a better position. "Man, that's tight. She doesn't move."

"I know. Let me help." My PT reached in and held my ribs while the tech stabilized my pelvis. Another tech stepped in to support my head and neck.

Six hands held me, and I fought back tears.

I thought, Is my body so broken that I need three people to make me sit upright? It wasn't always like this, but after years of watching my body progressively decline, it was difficult to remember what "normal" was like. I felt myself spiraling into despair.

To pull out of the dive, I closed my eyes and searched for beauty.

I mentally stepped through the scene and noted what I found. It was beautiful that:
- I had a wheelchair. Not everyone who needs a chair gets one.
- My physical therapist cared enough to be persistent in getting the fit just right. This wasn't the first time she'd been by my side in this room.
- There was a likely solution in a combination of cushions, different parts, and minor adjustments.
- Most importantly, those six hands on my body were warm and supportive. They belonged to generous, kind humans who chose to spend their time (close to two hours!) in service of my needs.

Listing beauty didn't change my physical circumstances, but it did change the way I viewed it.

And it can work for you, too. When stress or anxiety threatens to sink you, looking for beauty can be a life preserver that helps you float above your fears.

What are the three most beautiful things in the room with you?

How can you transform your stress into gratitude?

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Some Doorways from this week:

  • We had a belated birthday dinner for my brother-in-law at one of our favorite restaurants last weekend. I was grateful that my sister and her family live in the same town as I do.
  • I hired a new company to winterize my sprinkler system. They were polite and efficient, and I was pleased with their service. When they came to the door as they were leaving, and before I could ask how much I owed, the owner said, "It's on us today." I gave him a surprised look, and he said with a smile, "We do this sometimes." His kindness was beautiful.
  • My dog, Riley, loves it when we throw the ball for her to chase. When it snowed, we wondered how she would manage, but we need not have worried. It was joyful to watch her bound across the back yard in the snow!

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